Dotonbori is one of the principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan, running along the Dōtonbori canal from Dōtonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge in the Namba district of the city’s Chuo ward. Historically a theatre district, it is now a popular nightlife and entertainment area characterized by its eccentric atmosphere and large illuminated signboards. One of the area’s most prominent features, a billboard for confectionery company Glico displaying the image of a runner crossing a finishing line, is seen as an icon of Osaka within Japan.
Using the Osaka Metro, you can get off at Namba station and walk about 5 minutes or less to arrive at Dotonbori. There is no question that while Shinsekai and Nipponbashi are nifty little districts in Osaka, but Dotonbori is simply the ultimate place; it has a vibe and an atmosphere that nowhere else in the city – or maybe the country – can beat. At night, things get even better, with the stars shimmering in the black sky above and reflecting in the deep canal below. It makes for a great photo opportunity and if you can find a restaurant with a waterfront view, then you will be rewarded with more than just good taste!
While Osaka has traditionally served as both a domestic and international tourist destination for food lovers, Dotonbori is often considered the mecca of the city’s penchant for cheap, good food, and as such is often highlighted in guidebooks as a “must see” destination for visitors to the city. Examples of regional cuisine around Dotonbori include okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter cake), takoyaki (octopus dumplings), udon, as well as local variations of sushi and ramen. Kani Doraku, a famous crab shop in Osaka that has a huge animatronic crab hanging above its doors, is one of the best places in town to satisfy your cravings for Japanese food – but beware the queues!
In some areas of Osaka – especially Shinsekai – I wouldn’t recommend venturing out at night, especially not if you’re a solo backpacker like I am. However, I found Dotonbori to be really safe, and even I was out until the early hours of the morning enjoying some sake and takoyaki in the summer night’s still air. There are plenty of young people in the area and it makes it a really energetic and thriving place.
The main reason you will be here though (well, apart from the food) is to see the Glico advert and marvel at the Dotonbori Canal itself. Even though it looks picturesque during the day, it is after darkness falls when the waters really come alive.